I have listened (and purchased) a lot more music this year compared to 2009, which means a bit more selection to be reviewed. Last year’s best of showcased only 3, and this year is no exception. A first in nearly 3 years will have this countdown reinvolve music from North America as the last 2 years only focused on JPop. Ranking the 3 accordingly this year was more difficult because I love all 3 albums equally.
STAR — 中島美嘉 (Nakashima Mika)
It seemed easy for her to top her 2008 release, “VOICE” but this is definitely a solid album from start to finish. There aren’t many surprises this time around (like her Mica 3 Chu group a few years back), either a ballad or a dance track; yet the tracklist for it is placed quite well so it doesn’t get tiring on either front.
Fav tracks: (#1) ALWAYS, (#5) GAME, (#10) SPIRAL, (#11) Memory (Feat. DAISHI DANCE), (#13) 流れ星, (#14) SONG FOR A WISH
LIFE — アンジェラ・アキ (Angela Aki)
I really wanted this album to be #1, only to be trumped by the eventual #1. Similar formula to her last album, ANSWER, but tweaked a bit in the form of half-n-half language songs. 6 of the songs are completely in English, which begs the question if and when she’ll make another attempt at cracking the Western (North America or Europe) market. Gone are the very long, yet amazing ballads (see: Dahlia and Requiem from “ANSWER”), which overall is a better listening experience. It’s hard for her not to make an album of a sub-par level. I need not say anymore, she’s consistently that good. And to think since Jun Shibata hadn’t released an album for 2010, it would finally top my list, however…
Fav Tracks: (#1) 愛の季節, (#2) 輝く人, (#6) Unbreakable, (#10) The Truth Is Like A Lie, (#12) 母なる大地, (#13) LIFE
Have One On Me — Joanna Newsom
Where to begin? Well, admittingly I bought this album in June (unknowingly released in February), and not a moment too soon. I think it was about the time I found out she was performing in Vancouver. So a double-whammy of sorts, bought the album and the ticket to the concert ’round the same time. Much like her 2006 masterpiece, “Ys”, she once again doesn’t just relied on her harp as percussion and piano seemed to be quite prominent. More so, her vocals have matured once more. The elf-like vocals are long gone; still very high in pitch but less piercing (re: Milk-eyed mender). Oh, did I mention that this album is 2 hours long? (it’s split into 3 discs) But here’s the thing, it’s not fatiguing at all. It’s such a pleasant and magical ride you’ll take when you listen to this album. “Ys” set the bar for her, and it very well matched it.
Fav tracks: (1-#1) Easy, (1-#2) Have One On Me, (1-#4) Good Intentions Paving Company, (2-#3) In California, (2-#4) Jackrabbits, (2-#6) Occident, (3-#2) Esme, (3-#5) Kingfisher
Here’s hoping 2011 will bring just as much brilliance as 2010 did.